Huntingtown High Grad Exemplifies Collegiate Opportunities That Exist for Wheelchair Basketball Players
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
After wrestling his junior and senior years at Huntingtown High School, including finishing third in the 103-pound class at the 2006 Maryland 4A/3A championships, Trevon Jenifer went to college and returned to the sport that was his first love.
Jenifer played wheelchair basketball until he was 12. Jim Glatch, remembering how Jenifer starred at national tournaments, recruited him to come play at Edinboro (Pa.) University, which sponsors one of 10 intercollegiate programs nationally.
"I always knew it was possible, but I know a lot of people don't know much about it," said Jenifer, who was Edinboro's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder this past season.
The only fundamental difference in the rules for wheelchair basketball is one to account for dribbling -- each player must take one dribble for every two times he pushes his chair. In addition, players are classified according to their disability, from 1 to 4.5 -- with the former having no mobility below the rib cage -- and a lineup cannot exceed a certain point total. Other than that, the rules are identical and have fostered competitive professional leagues abroad.
Since Glatch began coaching at Edinboro 14 years ago, the number of colleges sponsoring teams has doubled to 10, ranging from small schools such as Edinboro to national universities such as Alabama, Arizona, Illinois and Missouri. Next year, Glatch said, Edinboro will become the fifth school to offer a women's team. Glatch said he estimates the operational cost to run a team each year is about $130,000, with travel being the biggest expense.
There is a ruling body, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, that oversees eligibility and rules enforcement. Glatch, though, said eligibility is his primary concern. He cited a 2007 study by Cornell University that showed nearly 70 percent of the disabled in the United States are unemployed.
Glatch said his goal is to help each of his players get jobs upon graduation, and that may include playing professionally overseas. He said all but one of his players in his 14 years have found work, and 75 percent have graduated, compared with 55 percent Edinboro's overall enrollment.
"That's what I'm most proud of," he said. "Yeah, I'd like to win a national championship, but I want to see these kids living good lives."